Monday, January 01, 2007

"Architect Opposes Stadium"


The text string "architect opposes stadium" returns no matches in a Google search. Why is that ? I oppose the stadium tax and the less than democratic way it was imposed here in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA, and as a result, am willing to oppose the stadium. I can't be the only person in the architectural profession to do so, can I ?

Today is the day that Hennepin County starts collecting additional sales tax to pay for a baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins – a privately owned company that generates millions of dollars in profits regardless. This demonstrates that team owners are in no real need of public subsidy. But billionaires have the clout to coerce government entities (and therefore taxpayers) to pay millions. Sounds like extortion to me. And of course, every occupying force has its collaborators, and in this case, it’s the Hennepin County Commissioners, and the Minnesota State Legislature and Governor who granted the Commission the power to levy the tax without a citizen vote.

Architects are apparently shy to speak out against almost anything that might come back to effect a project in the future– a restaurant around the corner from the stadium, a dream house or corporate campus for a CEO that might also be a big baseball booster. So it seems that a likely cadre of professionals that might have great insight into what is appropriate or not, remain silent – almost to a person – about the ethical nature of the public subsidy.

I am already strategizing about how to shift some of my purchasing outside the county – its not that hard for many people near the county border to do this. I can easily go to Ramsey or Anoka County instead. Luckily, those alternatives save me .5% in addition to avoiding the .15% Stadium Tax. Hennepin County deserves to lose some business, and perhaps there will be more pressure from the business community on the local government to let the voters have direct say in corporate welfare programs like the stadium tax.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

as much as i hate corporate welfare to corporations, i think the long term economic benefits of a stadium outweigh the short term consumer tax. as long as they aren't increasing property tax, clothing tax, (cost of living related items), i personally don't mind it. i also spend about $100 a year on purchases in hennapin county just because i don't consume much to begin with...

9:30 AM  
Blogger motherjones said...

The stadium may pull some jobs and activity across town, from the Metrodome to the Warehouse District. But I don't think it will generate anything, only move it around town. The existing metrodome is stark evidence that in and of itself, a baseball stadium has little power to generate development that is pedestrian and neighborhood development. I can almost guarantee that arguments for the last stadium included explanations of wonderous development that never materialized - so here we go again.

But I don't think the economic issue is the most relevent. The County of Hennepin could have given the citizenry the chance to vote on the taxation - but they begged and got from the state legislature the right to circumvent us, and impose it.

10:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a new post on the AIA MN blog about the stadium. Please make your comments known there to initiate a dialogue about the many controversial issues:

http://aiamnblog.blogspot.com/

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Varun M. Ajani said...

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7:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to build up your architect reputation?
The answer is simple. To design some buildings which can pick up your reputation greatly. How to make the buildings famous? The famous must be greatly functional, unique, special with new style. The building should hook up the people who visits.
So how could a building like this come out? Actually, one building is a work which need to put the architect, contractor, builder and supplier together. The building will go nowhere if one of which have problem.
But architect is the Key. He can pick up which kind of material the building can use.
For a certain project, the architect need to answer a question, how to design the building to be the best with a cost limitation.
Provided that the abilities of architects are same(one architect is not much better or worse than others). the materials for the building might be the biggest working area for the architect to work on.
An architect need to pick up the doors, windows, the ceilings, the lightings, the floor tile, the wall covering, the solid surfaces, the custom furnitures, the exterior wall on the building. What the people can see is what can improve the architect reputation.
So the problem turns to one issue how to find a good material with low cost.
Take an example, architects was supposed to pick up a wood mantel for a fireplace at cost of $1500. Do some research and find a company who can make marble mantel in the same price. You can find many of these company. For example, a company named Evan’s Home Luxuries, http://www.evanshomeluxuries.com in Boston, New england area. There, some mantel is about the same price.
Another example, for a entrance wood door, some times the price runs to $8000. If you use a cooper door, brass door, bronze door with the same price, definitely it will make the building a better reputation.
Use the granite tile to substitute the ceramic tile. A lot of suppliers can do that.
Use the wrought iron fence to substitute aluminum fences. Many.
You can find it.
It is the architect home work to do the research about all the material which will be used on the building. Do not point on the contracts do your homework if you want to be famous and make your money.
Architects are busy. I know some of Architect Company begins to hire buyer to do the investigation work about the architect material. This will be a fashion.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the baseball stadium in denver did wonders to accelerate the development of the old warehouse district. not sure how it compares when re-building a stadium, but new ones can help depressed areas. i agree though, sports teams should buid their own facilities.

10:57 PM  
Blogger iridescent cuttlefish said...

Sir,

Just happened across this architect-protests-stadium thing while looking for something else and had to stop to express my gratitude. Very few of us realize the absolutely fundamental role of architecture in how we live. As the primary interaction between Man and Nature, it is also the prime cause in the cascading series of consequences for both: psychological & societal (Inside) and environmental (Outside).

When we build, we are quite literally building the conditions of our existence, from self-perpetuating prisons and slums to the social stratification of gated enclaves and cookie-cutter drone housing fed at pre-determined intervals by shopping malls and the rest of the consumer-citizen's behavior modifying/reinforcing filling stations.

When we build in such a way that tremendous amounts of energy and natural resources must be consumed, is this somehow accidental or unintended? Is it just the way things are done, or are we to believe it's the state of the art?

Even among architects this understanding--that is, the consequences of what, where, how & why we build--is rarely discussed, much less acted upon.

In the first chapter of Eugene Tsui's Evolutionary Architecture (an enormously important, truly insightful and just plain beautiful book), he talks about his astonishment while in college at the general lack of understanding or even interest in the consequences of architecture. You might expect such an indifference and lack of insight in those of us who only live & work in built environments, but among the architects themselves?

Tsui doesn't dwell much on the reasons why students so eager to build and professors (presumably) eager and qualified to teach would have such a void in their motivations, attributing it more or less to the inertia of tradition, but I think he's not been more outspoken about it because his view of architecture is already so radical, so outside the mainstream. What he does make clear is that architecture is not just political but also an inherently moral activity.

What effect would it have on social and environmental issues if we built in such a way, for example, that our buildings produced more energy and water than they consumed? Or that these buildings were impervious to fire, floods and storms? Or that they did not require vast natural resources--that they in fact functioned as part of the ecosystem? Or even that banished childhood nightmares from the corners where they hatch?

Once we've considered all the ways in which architecture could benefit man & nature--the next step after outrage, the railing against all the completely unnecessarily wasteful, evil and spirit-crushing uses to which it's been put--then we're finally ready to use our first art to express humanity's potential, instead of suppressing and distorting it.

The problem at this glorious point, however, is that someone profits from every ill use to which architecture has been put, as we see when a person of conscience puts his body between stadium leeches and the public good. Imagine the reaction of Those Who Profit to the sudden emergence of individual household energy autonomy or to the development of close-knit communities of people who knew each other and talked things over...and couldn't be swayed by the power of fear and scarcity and the manipulation of the Owners.

It wouldn't be good for business as usual, that's for sure. One of the better kept secrets in this "information age" is that people everywhere pretty much want the same things. The kinds of things that those fine slogans carved above the entrances to our monolithic courthouses promised, but haven't quite gotten around to yet--equality, freedom, justice, etc,--as well as the basic human needs that apply in every country. Shelter, food, water, energy.

If more architect/activists would stand up for what's right and decent and within the scope of architecture to help provide to everyone, then, like the cops & judges who've come out against the murderous (but highly profitable) Drug War, we might even have a chance to witness a day when those fine slogans actually meant something.

Hat's off to you, pal!

7:14 AM  
Blogger oliviaharis said...

I always found it intriguing that Hitler chose a very pronounced Roman motiff, as opposed to any real semblance of Germanic Gothic architecture.I think a combinational style would have reflected well the characteristics Hitler was invoking, as opposed to the pure Roman style that, though profundly evocative, nonetheless was lacking in connection to Germanic culture.
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oliviaharis
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2:58 AM  
Blogger drivenwide said...

One of the great missed opportunities we have as architects lies in serving the needs of the billions of ill-housed people around the globe, who need our design skills and who have no direct way of paying for them. That may seem like a noble, but unreachable goal in a profession not structured to meet such needs, but a large and growing number of architects, academics, and activists have begun to take this challenge seriously, engaging in a range of humble and very hard-headed projects.
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12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you like stadiums? I find they are a good cultural center for various demographics of the community to come together and bond over something together.

In my town we have a soccer stadium, and the hippy lesbians, high-rise rich folks, rural latinos, suburban soccer moms, and eastside punk rockers - all come together to get a hot dog and cheer on the local team.

9:00 PM  
Blogger LrunnerR said...

Yea, you know I completely agree with you on this subject. We have had a similar problem here in Cincinnati with the stadiums that they built in 'non-perfect" locations that didn't generate the amount of development they proposed and guess who gets the friggen bill. You would think with the twins in first and possibly looking at extra post season games and maybe a division title they would be getting plenty of extra money this year to cover the costs.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Architects in Birmingham said...

I firmly believe that the long terms benefits to all users of the stadium are worth a small tax increase!

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Architecture in Nottingham said...

Interesting point you raise about those in the architecture profession not wishing to be seen to be objecting to development proposals - found myself on that side of the fence a few times. Paul at PD Architecture Nottingham

11:42 AM  
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